Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin is preparing to pitch for his fifth team in four seasons in 2017, but his newest squad -- the Padres -- may be catching him at an optimal time.Team Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel gave Chacin the ball for what was essentially a must-win game against Team Dominican
Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin is preparing to pitch for his fifth team in four seasons in 2017, but his newest squad -- the Padres -- may be catching him at an optimal time.
Team Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel gave Chacin the ball for what was essentially a must-win game against Team Dominican Republic on Thursday in Pool F action of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Though Chacin ended up the hard-luck loser in Venezuela's 3-0 loss to the Dominican, the righty brought his "A" game -- in terms of both his final line and by Statcast™ metrics -- while facing a lineup that essentially doubles as an All-Star team.
Chacin had seen his four-seam velocity hover between 88-89 mph for several years until it spiked to 90.9 mph in 2016 -- his highest since 2012, according to pitch F/X data. But he was at another level on Thursday night at Petco Park. With the adrenaline pumping, the 29-year-old averaged 92.9 mph on his four-seamer, according to Statcast™ -- two miles per hour faster than his average last season, and faster than his average for any of his eight seasons in the Major Leagues.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Added velocity translated to better results for Chacin, who posted a 4.81 ERA and 18.8 percent strikeout rate that were below league average last season. He gave up only one run -- a solo homer by Gregory Polanco -- and struck out three over 4 1/3 innings, including two punchouts on the four-seam fastball. Overall, the D.R.'s powerful lineup went hitless in five at-bats that ended against Chacin's four-seamer, while his only run-scoring mistake, to Polanco, came on a two-seam fastball.
"I think it was an incredible pitching game [for] Chacin," Vizquel said afterward. "He was incredible in this game. The whole game plan, he executed it precisely."
With the back end of the Padres' Opening Day rotation still very much in the air, Chacin will take every advantage he can get to win a spot. If he can maintain this newfound velocity through the rest of March, that extra life on his fastball could be the edge he needs.
The World Baseball Classic runs through Wednesday. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games in San Diego's Petco Park and the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.